Durian, The Smelliest Superfood
By Madalina Hubert
What is it about durian? Some people love it. Some people hate it. One of the most nutritious foods in the world—praised as “the king of fruits” in Southeast Asia, durian is a dessert favourite, flavouring ice creams, cookies, and drinks. It’s also one of the most unappealing fruits in the world, being actually banned in certain public spaces (i.e. taxis and airports) because of its pungent smell.
So what is it and why is it so controversial?
Durian is native to Southeast Asia (grown primarily in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand). It’s a large fruit, weighing up to 7 pounds (3kg) with a hard shell that is covered in spikes. In season from June to September, its soft flesh (similar to custard) is yellow-orange when fully ripe, but this may vary depending on its variety (there are about 30 varieties). Durian also has a mixture of flavours and has been described as sweet, bitter, and creamy.
The main reason that some people hate it is due to its very strong smell, which is attractive to some and repellant to others.
This may be due to the multiple active compounds in durian that appeal to people’s sense of smell differently. This is similar to how some people love stinky tofu and blue cheese but others hate it!
But durian is also a superfood. If you’re a fan, then keep eating it (in moderation, of course). If you’re not, then maybe you’ll change your mind after you realize its health benefits. We will explore some of them here.
Health Benefits of Durian
Durian is very high in vitamins and minerals, and also includes healthy fats, protein, and fibre.
Here are 3 important health benefits:
- Supports Heart Health – Durian contains monounsaturated fats and these can reduce bad cholesterol and alleviate risks of heart disease and stroke. The fruit also contains potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure.
- Improves Relaxation – One of the chemicals in durian is tryptophan, which the body uses to produce serotonin, the neurotransmitter is known as the “happy” chemical since it improves mood and produces relaxation. The body also uses tryptophan to produce melatonin, a hormone that contributes to a better night’s sleep.
- Boosts Immunity – Durian contains high levels of vitamin C, an antioxidant that plays an important role in strengthening the immune system and protecting the body against infections.
Other health benefits attributed to durian include: boosting digestion, fighting cancer, relieving anemia, helping to maintain healthy bones, and increasing fertility.
Things to Note
Despite its high nutritional value, there are a couple of aspects to pay attention to when eating durian (other than the smell, of course):
- Avoid mixing it with alcohol – Certain compounds in the fruit lead to adverse reactions when consumed with alcohol.
- Limit portions – Those who love it want to eat a lot of it, but the fruit is both high in calories and sugar. It is also a warming food, according to traditional Chinese medicine. This can cause symptoms such as sore throat and phlegm if you eat it too much, especially if you already have a hot constitution. To reduce these effects, limit your portions of durian and drink cooling drinks such as mint tea, coconut water, and green tea.
That said, here is some advice on how to prepare durian, including tips on how to remove the unpleasant smell from your hands!
You can also prepare some delicious durian recipes at home (if you dare, of course).
5 Easy Durian-Infused Recipes That You Need To Try Making At Home – Johor Foodie
Finally, I hope you enjoyed learning about this nutritious and often smelly food. And who knows, perhaps you will even embark on your own durian discovery journey!
To discover more interesting Asian foods, visit:
6 Popular Asian Fruits – Dumpling Connection
Madalina Hubert is a Toronto-based writer specializing in art, culture, travel, and culinary explorations.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are purely informational and educational in nature. The information is not a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.